Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sensing Watteau: The artist's musical images as preludes to the age of sensibility
by Whedon, Pamela Webber, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2008, 251; 3304386
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines images of music in the work of Antoine Watteau and argues for his position as an early painter in the French age of sensibility. Watteau lived and worked at a time in which scientific theories of sensibility aligned sensations with the neural mechanisms of the body. The layered and overlapping notions of physical and emotional sensibility prevailed in contemporary writings, which linked the body with the soul, causing emotions to tremble and pulsate as reactions to tactual stimulation. As such, music was the metaphor used by medecins philosophes for depicting vibrations that connected the senses with emotion. The history of the meaning of music as a transmitter of sensations unites earlier traditions of musical expression with the melodic allusions contained in the paintings of Watteau. His work addresses music's relation to the body, and its power over it while it incorporates contemporary perceptions of music that combine the measured simplicity of the French musical style with the colorful music of the Italians. Watteau's musical images are accompaniments for shared human sentiment as well as conduits for the vibrations of erotic love. French ideas of honnêteté offer insight into the artist's own participation in privileged social and music circles. The musical style and treatment of musical line by the artist's contemporary, French composer François Couperin, combine Italian and French sensibilities and contain melodic intonations that echo the visual cadences of Watteau.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sheriff, Mary D.
Commitee: Carter, Timothy, Folda, Jaroslav, McWilliam, Neil, Verkerk, Dorothy
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Art: Art History
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history
Keywords: Age of sensibility, Artist, France, Musical images, Painting, Watteau, Antoine
Publication Number: 3304386
ISBN: 978-0-549-53582-9
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